Programming note: A’s-Tigers coverage starts today at 3:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on CSN California (Channel locations)
TORONTO — As the setting changes, the A’s challenge remains the same.
Each stop on this three-city road trip brings an opponent with a fearsome middle of the lineup. That leaves a big challenge for an Oakland pitching staff that got knocked around over the final two games of a weekend series against the Blue Jays.
Now the scene shifts to Comerica Park in Detroit, where the A’s start a four-game series Monday against a Tigers team that brings the thunder in the heart of the order.
Or so the theory goes. Detroit (8-9) just got swept over the weekend by the Indians, and their two biggest offensive stars, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton, are mired in slumps. Cabrera is hitting just .206 with one homer and six RBI. Upton, signed to a six-year $132.75 million contract in the offseason, sits at .214 with one homer and three RBI.
[A'S LINEUP: Canha out, Coghlan batting second and playing third]
Those two aren’t going to stay cold forever. But the A’s — after sweeping the Yankees and losing two of three to the Blue Jays — will try to extend their misery a little longer.
“Obviously that’s another tough lineup,” A’s catcher Stephen Vogt said. “We’ve had three tough lineups on this trip. We’ve got four tough pitchers we’re gonna face, and they’ve got a pretty good bullpen. We like the way we’re playing right now and we like our pitching staff, so we’ve got a good chance to go in there and take three of four.”
Their work is cut out in Monday’s opener against Jordan Zimmermann, another marquee offseason signing for Detroit. The right-hander is 3-0 and has yet to allow a single run over his first three starts (19 1/3 IP).
In Toronto, it wasn’t just the Jays’ superstars who hurt the A’s. Left fielder Ezequiel Carrera terrorized them from the leadoff spot, piling up six hits over the final two games and homering Sunday. Against the Tigers, the A’s can’t be too preoccupied with the likes of Cabrera, Upton and Victor Martinez. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is among the AL’s top 10 in homers (six) and RBI (15), and second baseman Ian Kinsler is hitting .333 with 15 runs.
Kendall Graveman takes the hill for the A’s on Monday, and he’s coming off an excellent start against the Yankees, when he allowed just three hits and struck out eight over 6 1/3 innings. He joined “Blue Moon” Odom (1969) and Mike Norris (1980) as the only pitchers in Oakland history to be on the Opening Day roster and allow four hits or fewer while throwing five or more innings in each of his first three starts.